As I’ve noted before, I play sax. That means a number of things, including: 1) I’m a touch mentally unstable 2) I play jazz, and related to that 3) I love Charlie Parker.
The moral of the story was that Charlie was the man. He was one of those guys who had a tragically short life: Mozart, Jimi Hendrix, Clifford Brown (Note: There is no other list that has those three guys on it). God knows what he would’ve done if he lived past 34. He was also one of those guys who was amazing at what they did, but in no way did you want to live like them. Oh yeah, and in those 34 years he became one of the most important musicians of the century.
He, along with Dizzy Gillespie, revolutionized Jazz forever. They invented/perfected Bebop. For those of you who don’t know what Bebop is: take the most insane thing you’ve heard, then speed it up to about 280 bpm. Bird was a virtuoso, no doubts, and a genius. To him ii-V-I’s were boring. He extended jazz harmony in a similar way that Wagner did with classical (never again will you see Bird and Wagner compared). With Bird, a chord’s extensions could become part of a melody and solo. He would take old standard progressions (I got rhythm, how high the moon, Cherokee, and the blues) and super-charge the harmony, and add his own melody. He was a master of this. If he had only written tunes, and not played a note, he would still be really friggin’ important. Good thing he played. He is a sax god, probably the sax god. Pretty much every saxophonist after him took something from him, his licks, his style, his speed, something. Cannonball is the first guy that comes to my mind, with Phil Woods a close second. This is jazz on roids.
Unfortunately he didn’t exactly live the best life. All his problems could be summed up in a word: Drugs, and specifically heroin. Often, if he didn’t have enough money for his dope, he would play on the side of the street (yeah, sax god just chillin’ on the sidewalk), or he would sell his sax, then later remember that he played sax for a living and then have to buy some piece of crap horn to play a gig later. Sadly, he didn’t exactly realize that, I don’t know, this lifestyle wasn’t exactly healthy and he died of pneumonia and a bleed ulcer. He was at the point where the coroner thought he was somewhere between 50 and 60 years old, when he was really 34.
So i’ll leave you with a couple of recordings. Just remember, BIRD LIVES!!